The Ultimate Guide to What Horses Can (And Can’t) Eat

Ask any horse owner or equestrian and they will tell you how much fun it can be to give their horse a special treat. However, feeding your horse the wrong thing can have dire consequences. By educating yourself on the various foods that your horse can safely eat, as well as those that they cannot, you can give them a special treat without worrying about the outcome.

What foods can horses safely eat? Horses can eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables including apples, carrots, celery, melons, green beans, and more. They may also enjoy treats such as peanut butter, oatmeal, or sugar cubes! It is important to always offer your horses treats in moderation, even if it something that they can safely eat.

More important than knowing the foods that your horse can safely eat is knowing the foods that they can’t eat! In this post, we will provide you with a comprehensive list detailing both safe and unsafe foods. We will also answer some of the most commonly asked questions regarding a horse’s diet. 

Foods That Horses Can & Can’t Eat

Whether you are feeding your horse celery or sugar cubes, it is important to remember that treats should be just that – treats. Any food outside of your horse’s normal diet should be provided in moderation. Many equine experts suggest no more than once a day. 

Offering too many treats to your horse may cause them to refuse their normal diet which provides them with the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals they need to stay healthy. 

Before feeding your horse sugar cubes or fruit with high sugar content, it is always best to make sure they are not insulin-resistant. If your horse is insulin-resistant, you will need to carefully select treats that have lower sugar content. 

Foods That Horses Can Safely Eat

Horses, like humans, each have unique tastes. While one horse may love apples as a treat, another horse may decide that apples are not for them. For this reason, it is nice to have a list of foods that your horse can safely eat. 

It is important to make sure you are providing treats that your horse can safely eat. This means that you will need to remove cores, stones, or pits. It is also wise to cut apart hard fruits and vegetables or anything that is round in shape so your horse is able to eat it more easily.

Listed below are foods that your horse can safely eat in moderation:

  • Apples (without the core)
  • Applesauce
  • Apricots (without the stone)
  • Bananas
  • Carrots
  • Celery 
  • Cucumbers
  • Grapes 
  • Green Beans 
  • Lettuce
  • Mango 
  • Molasses
  • Melon (without the rind)
  • Oatmeal
  • Oranges
  • Peaches (without the stone)
  • Pears (without the core)
  • Peanut Butter
  • Peppermints
  • Pineapple Pieces 
  • Plums (without the stone)
  • Pretzels
  • Pumpkin
  • Raisins 
  • Snow Peas
  • Strawberries
  • Sugar Cubes
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Watermelon

 

After feeding your horse a new type of food, you must observe them for a few hours to ensure that they do not have an allergic reaction. While this is rare in most horses, it is a possibility. 

Many of these treats are also great for humans to eat as well! Check out our article 8 Human Foods Great For Sharing With Your Horse.

Foods That Horses Shouldn’t Eat

It is incredibly important to educate yourself and anyone around your horse on the dangers of feeding a horse something it shouldn’t eat. Not only can some foods cause intestinal discomfort and distress, but some can also lead to more serious digestive problems or even death. 

Listed below are several foods that your horse should not eat under any circumstances:

  • Avocado
  • Bran
  • Bread
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Caffeine
  • Cauliflower
  • Chocolate
  • Compost
  • Dairy Products
  • Garlic
  • Kale
  • Lawn Clippings
  • Meat
  • Onions
  • Potatoes 
  • Rhubarb
  • Stone Fruits
  • Tomatoes

 

If you know or suspect that your horse has eaten something on this list or anything else that causes concern, it is best to contact your equine veterinarian. While there may not be much they can do to relieve your horse’s discomfort, alerting them of the situation prepares them for any potential calls if other problems arise.

Before feeding your horse something with which you are unfamiliar, you must do proper research. Just because someone else decides to feed their horse a specific food doesn’t mean that it is the best decision for your horse. Remember that your horse is ultimately your responsibility, it is your job to protect their comfort, health, and wellness.

Common Questions Regarding a Horse’s Diet

There seems to be great confusion surrounding the foods that horses can and can’t eat. While some horse owners may say it’s acceptable to feed their horse cucumbers, others may advise against it. Here are some of the most common questions regarding treats to add to a horse’s diet.

Can Horses Eat Celery?

Yes! Horses can eat both celery stalk and celery leaves. Most horses enjoy this crisp treat! In addition to being a delicious way to celebrate a successful day, celery provides your horse with an extra dose of vitamins. Celery contains vitamin K, potassium, manganese, vitamin B2, vitamin C, Vitamin B6, and vitamin A.

Because it is a hard vegetable, it is important to cut the celery into small pieces when feeding your horse. Giving them a full piece of celery could result in choking. 

Can Horses Eat Cabbage?

Under no circumstances should you let your horse eat cabbage. Cabbage is in the same family as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, and kale, all vegetables that can cause intestinal gas in horses (and humans). Gas pains can quickly escalate in your horses, causing gas-related colic and intense discomfort. In severe cases, this could prove fatal. 

Can Horses Eat Lettuce?

Yes! Horses can safely eat lettuce. In fact, some horse owners occasionally choose to add lettuce to their horse’s normal feed. Lettuce is an inexpensive treat with high water content, making it an excellent addition to your horse’s diet. Most horses can enjoy up to two pounds of lettuce each day without any effect on their appetite.

Can Horses Eat Watermelon?

Watermelon, in addition to other melons, is safe for horses to eat! In fact, most horses love the sweet flesh of the watermelon. Horses can eat both the flesh and rind of watermelons although most prefer the flesh. If you are feeding your horse watermelon with the rind intact, it is important to cut it up into small pieces to avoid a choking hazard.

Can Horses Eat Pumpkin?

Like many other animals, some horses really enjoy the taste of pumpkin. As a sweet treat, pumpkin flesh can be fed to your horse in small chunks. While most horses do not have problems digesting pumpkin seeds, they may not enjoy the taste. Pumpkin is quite high in vitamin A and is made up of 90% water, making it an excellent addition to your horse’s diet.

Many horse lovers also use cooked pumpkin in homemade horse treats, another fun way to reward your horse for a job well done!

Can Horses Eat Bananas? 

Although not as common as other fruits, horses can enjoy bananas safely. Bananas contain important nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin D. They are easy to both eat and digest, with a pleasant flavor.

Like pumpkin, mashed banana can also be added to homemade horse treats for added sweetness. As with any other treat, feed your horse bananas in moderation and monitor your horse after offering this treat for the first time.

Can Horses Eat Oranges?

Oranges, as well as other citrus fruits, can be a good source of vitamin C for your horse. In fact, researchers are conducting studies on the benefits of orange peel extract for a horse’s overall health. The downside to oranges or other citrus fruits is that they do have high sugar content. It is important to make sure that your horse is not insulin resistant before offering this type of treat.

Additionally, citrus fruits can negatively react with various medications or prescriptions so be sure to check any medication that your horse is taking before offering oranges as a treat.

Can Horses Eat Strawberries?

Horses can safely enjoy strawberries as long as they are eaten in moderation. Strawberries contain vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus, all things that are highly beneficial for your horses’ health! They also have high water content and important antioxidants, great for boosting your horse’s immune system and hydration. 

Most horses love the sweet taste of a strawberry. However, feeding your horse too many strawberries could result in bloating or intestinal discomfort.

Can Horses Eat Meat?

Meat is one of the food groups that horses should never eat. Horses are true herbivores, with teeth and digestive systems created to ingest plants. There are stories of horses that have been known to eat meat in the wild. However, there are no studies on the longterm effects of meat on a horse’s digestion system. 

Can Horses Eat Cucumbers? 

Yes! In fact, cucumbers are one of the best treats for horses that are insulin resistant. Because cucumbers are both hard and round in shape, it is important to cut them up into smaller pieces to avoid choking. Horses are known to enjoy cucumbers as a standalone treat or when added into their regular feed. 

Cucumbers have a high water content as well as a high nutritional value, benefitting your horse’s health while rewarding them for a job well done. In some horses, cucumbers may cause gas. For this reason, it is recommended to limit your horse’s intake to 1 or 2 cucumbers per week. 

Can Horses Eat Apples?

Perhaps the most common treats for horses, apples are a staple addition to any barn. When feeding your horse apples, it is important to remove the core. The seeds of an apple can be toxic to a horse if ingested in large quantities. Since you should cut up an apple to avoid choking, removing the core is an easy step to ensuring your horse’s health and safety.

Can Horses Eat Pears?

Similar to apples, most horses also enjoy the taste of pears. As with apples, you must cut the pears into small portions, removing the core and seeds to avoid issues. Pears have high fiber content and contain many key vitamins and nutrients, making them an excellent addition to your horse’s diet. 

Both apples and pears have high sugar content. Because of this, it is crucial to track the amount of the fruit that you offer your horse in a week to not cause digestive problems.

Can Horses Eat Grapes?

Because grape seeds are relatively small compared to other seeds, horses can safely eat both seeded and seedless grapes. A sweet, water-filled treat, grapes are an inexpensive way to give your horse something special as a reward for their hard work.

Because of their sugar content, you should never give your horse more than one pound of grapes per day. For horses with insulin resistance, you may need to limit grape intake to ten grapes per day.

What to Do If Your Horse Eats Something They Shouldn’t

So, what do you do if your horse eats something that they shouldn’t? Whether you accidentally fed your horse something they shouldn’t eat or they got into food that was supposed to be put away, this situation can cause quite a bit of stress.

If your horse ate something that they shouldn’t, you must remain calm. First, observe your horse. They may choose to lay down. While this shouldn’t cause any additional problems, it is important to force them to stand if they begin to exhibit abnormal behaviors. In cases of extreme gas or intestinal distress, walking your horse could help to alleviate their pain.

Next, contact your equine veterinarian. Explain the situation and any symptoms that you have noticed. Your veterinarian will be able to provide additional guidance on how to proceed. It is always better to be safe than sorry in these types of situations. Do not wait too long to receive professional advice on the situation. 

Finally, carefully investigate what it was that caused the incident. Eliminate harmful foods from your horse’s diet, consider allergy testing, and ensure that all harmful foods are out of your horse’s reach at all times. 

We hope that this post provides you with confidence in knowing the best ways to treat your horse while providing them with added nutrients and vitamins. Providing your horse with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables not only breaks up the mundane routine but also ensures that your horse is receiving a well-rounded diet. 

Treats are also a great tool to use to get your horse to take medication or supplements. To know more, read our article Getting a Horse to Eat Supplements: Complete Guide.

Want to know more about basic horse care? Check out these articles:

 

P.S. Save This Article to Your “Horse Care” Board!